Formations Summary

September–December 2020

Unit 1: Parables in Luke

Starlette Thomas

The parables are a part of the gospel tradition that showcase Jesus’ habit of turning the usual meanings of things upside down. In simple words, Jesus draws inspiration from our everyday lives and turns our tales into something that can teach profound lessons. Jesus can make any story powerful, drawing listeners in and pointing them to meanings they didn’t see coming. He recasts characters and puts them in surprising settings to show us what our communal story can be. This unit highlights the parables of the good Samaritan, the great dinner, the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the persistent widow, revealing them to be relatable stories about everyday relationships. These stories convey profound lessons about community and the kingdom of God.

Unit 2: God’s Good Gifts

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair

Both Old and New Testaments offer viewpoints of stewardship that go far beyond fiscal-year budgeting and weekly offering envelopes. The practice of stewardship isn’t just for individuals who need a reminder to dole out their ten percent. Rather, it is a practice for a whole life, proceeding naturally out of our understanding of God, our relationships with one another, and our gratitude for all the gifts we have received. This unit will explore stewardship in passages from Psalms, James, Proverbs, and Colossians. Together, we will find that we are a church made up of stewards at work and worship, seeking wisdom, gratefully giving, and ready to serve.

Unit 3: The Ark of the Covenant

Mary Elizabeth Hill Hanchey

This unit about the ark of the covenant begins when the people of Israel are just learning to live in the wilderness and ends with them established in Jerusalem under King David. The span of this ark narrative portrays the presence of God among the people. Lesson 1 focuses on God’s choice to dwell among the people in a portable, active way. Lesson 2 focuses on the ark’s placement in the tabernacle. The third lesson describes the Day of Atonement, when the ark is used to ritually cleanse the people of their sin. Finally, lesson 4 describes King David’s uninhibited, worshipful dancing before the ark. As we study these lessons, may we reflect on what it means to approach the sacred, both in worship and in everyday life.

Unit 4: The King Is Coming

Taylor Sandlin

We rightly connect the Advent season with the virtues of hope, peace, joy, and love. But for many people, the darkness of winter brings depression and memories of loss. The five lessons in this unit will help us consider the meaning of Christ’s coming: the blessings he brings and the challenges he lays before us. Our guides will be biblical writers of the Old and New Testaments who bore witness to these things, either anticipating the difference Jesus makes or practicing discipleship in light of his incarnation. This will be a unit of hope and joy, of prophets and martyrs. In the midst of it all, Christ the King awaits us.

January–April 2021

Unit 1: Our Loving, Creating God

Mark Wingfield

Here we are with a brand-new year ahead of us. In our first unit, we’ll reflect on God’s loving work of creation. In unit two, we’ll reflect on the stories Genesis tells us about our earliest ancestors. In our third unit, we’ll reflect on how God comes to us through Christ to teach us the ways of the kingdom and show us the cost of faithfulness to God’s eternal plan. Finally, in unit four we’ll reflect on Christ’s resurrection. Even now, as we still wait to see what the next chapter of our story may bring, we can hold this word in our hearts. Whatever journeys lie before us in 2021, our God goes before us and upholds us in strong and loving arms.

Unit 2: Creation and Fall

Joseph LaGuardia

The Genesis stories of the creation and the fall recount in broad strokes the fundamentals of faith: God creates and provides. Humanity reflects God’s image and God’s care for creation. Temptation and disobedience muddle things along the way. There are consequences, but God works to redeem us. Therefore, this month’s unit contains both good and bad, helping us explore what we celebrate about the human spirit as well as what we mourn about sin and brokenness. The good news is that God doesn’t give up on us. God gives us the ability to create life and work together with both God and other people.

Unit 3: The Word and the Cross

Ronnie McBrayer

We tend to think of Lent as a season to remember the death of Jesus. In fact, that is really only a theme of three significant days at the end of the season: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Over five lessons, Mark will lead us on a Lenten journey of reflection on Jesus’ words and deeds. We’ll hear Jesus use parables to describe the mixed reaction his message received. We’ll see him send his disciples forth to advance his work, and we’ll watch him contend with those who oppose him. We’ll be challenged to consider his ultimate question: “Who do you say that I am?” Finally, we’ll hear this Gospel’s ultimate answer: “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Unit 4: Luke’s Easter Stories

Susan Ballenger, Katherine Cook, Phil Nall, Randall Rich, Sharlande Sledge

In his Gospel, Luke shares not only the familiar story of the women at the tomb but also a lengthy narrative, unique to him, of two disciples who meet the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus. Luke’s account continues in the book of Acts, where he describes Jesus teaching his disciples for forty days after his resurrection and then being taken up into heaven, leaving his followers with the commission to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. Over four weeks, we’ll celebrate the season of resurrection by exploring these Easter stories in Luke and Acts. By God’s grace, we’ll see ourselves in these stories and come to a greater appreciation for the place of the risen Christ in our faith and in our lives.